Some Frequently Asked Questions About The Philadelphia Zoning Process – Philly Zoning 101

August 15, 2013

Tonight I had the pleasure of speaking on behalf of the Fishtown Neighbors Association to address Philadelphia Zoning 101.  Between all the acronyms, verbiage, and procedural hurdles to getting a zoning variance the process can seem more complicated than it is. The goal of the talk was to provide a basic overview of how the zoning process works here in Philadelphia.

In case you missed it, here is our “Philadelphia Zoning 101 Guide.” This should answer basic questions about how the zoning process works here in the City of Brotherly Love.  Hopefully you don’t think it’s boring.

Leo previously wrote about changes to the Philadelphia Zoning Code that took effect in March 2013.


Why Pennsylvania Desperately Needs an Anti-SLAPP Statute To Protect Civic Engagement – The Dragonetti Act Is Not Enough

May 19, 2013

When most people think of the First Amendment, they think of the right to free speech. However, the First Amendment does not just protect free speech, it protects all civic engagement. The purpose of the First Amendment is to ensure that citizens have an active voice in our government. The First Amendment is not just a right to free speech, but a right to public participation. 

That right in Pennsylvania is currently in jeopardy thanks to SLAPP suits (strategic lawsuits against public participation). 

Ideally, Congress would pass uniform anti-SLAPP legislation so citizens in all 50 states enjoy the right to public participation. But until that happens, Pennsylvania desperately needs an anti-SLAPP statute because what we have on the books currently is not enough. Every citizen should be able to participate in our government, perhaps through blogging or civic activism, without having to worry about being served with a frivolous lawsuit.

Below are my thoughts on why we need it, and what it would look like…

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Appellants File Brief in Support of Saving Historical Kensington Bank Buildings (1942 N. Front Street)

April 5, 2013

Appellants Karen Lewis and Carmen Bolden have filed their brief in support of overturning the ZBA’s decision, which would allow the Woman’s Community Revitalization Project to destroy historical Kensington bank buildings and build low income housing.

You can read more about the WCRP’s proposal here. You can also read the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s rational for their decision here.

Since I am counsel of record, I will not be commenting about the case. Below is the brief we filed.

View this document on Scribd

Developers and RCOs Take Heed: the Zoning Code Changes on March 25, 2013 — Bill No. 120889

February 6, 2013
"New" is all relative anyway.

“New” is all relative anyway.

Get ready for some changes in the New Zoning Code.

On January 24, 2013, Philadelphia City Council overrided Mayor Nutter’s veto and voted Bill No. 120889 into place. The Bill goes into effect on March 25, 2013. And just last night, we received a fact sheet from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission that displays the major changes, which mainly affect developers and Registered Community Organizations.

What does this mean for you? Well, if you’re a developer or on the board of a RCO, you have some new rules to follow, and probably some more work to do. Here’s a quick greatest hits.

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The 4 Hour Reputation, and How I Built My Zoning Law Practice

December 19, 2012

[Editor's Note: I wrote a piece about my zoning practice a little awhile back and then decided not to publish it. However, a few days ago I read this article by Rachel Rodgers in Forbes magazine. Her advice to other lawyers? Ditch the physical office and use social media to manufacture a reputation online, just like Tim Ferriss suggests in the book 4 Hour Work Week. The 4 Hour Expert method involves self creating publicity, and then using that publicity to perpetuate your self proclaimed "expertise." The idea behind the 4 Hour Expert isn't to acquire any actual expertise - just trick people into thinking you have them.

So who is Rachel Rodgers, and why is she in Forbes magazine?

To her credit, Rachel has implemented the 4 Hour Work Week model successfully. She started her own virtual law practice (called a "VLO" by cool fancy people), and declared it to be a success, thereby becoming a self-proclaimed authority on starting a VLO. How did she "become so successful?" According to this video (scroll to 19:45), Rachel initially used HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to get mentioned by a few "entrepreneur magazines", including Forbes and MSNBC, which she then used as "proof" that she is an authority. It was a great story for the press - young lawyer starts a fresh new law firm on the internet and becomes successful. However, it all sort of fell apart when put under some scrutiny.

Nevertheless, Rachel became a "4 hour expert" in starting virtual law offices by generating publicity for herself, and then using that publicity to manufacture expertise in starting VLOs. Now she sells the same "4 Hour" model to other people, which you can do with just about any area of law. But is the 4 Hour method really worth anything to a law practice in the long run...?]

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